tv Charlie Rose PBS February 29, 2012 12:00am-1:00am PST
>> rose: welcome to our program. tonight, nobel laureate daniel kahneman who wrote a fascinating new book about intuition and the considered response, it is called thinking fast and slow. >> the amount of world knowledge that has to be brought to bear on that problem within a third of a second for the brain to recognize that there is an incongruity, this is extraordinary, so an intuition is like that, so that a chess player who would recognize a chess situation very quickly, i recognize my wife's mood one word on the telephone. >> we conclude this evening with alan rickman starring in seminar on broadway. >> i think you can tell when truth is happening in the theatre, when you feel real concentration between actors and it transmits to the audience and
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: dan kahneman is here, a professor of psychology emeritus at princeton in 2002 awarded the nobel prize in economics for analysis of decision making, on certainty, the only noneconomy minimums to win that award he is one of the most influential psychologists in history and certainly the most psychologist alive today and writes about the ideas that
have driven his career over the past five decades in a new book, it is called thinking, fast and slow. and i am pleased to have daniel kahneman here at this table for the first time and it is about time. so i am glad you are here. >> i am delighted to be here. >> rose: let's give credit where credit should be given to your colleague, the late. >> thirsky. >> rose: a great friendship. >> yes. >> rose: and a great -- tell me about the friend ship first. >> well, you know, we were extraordinarily lucky, so this was one of those collaborations that people dream of and there are very few who are that lucky. we like each other, so we spent all of our days, you know, hours every day, and. >> rose: talking about what. >> talking about everything, but also our subject was the subject of intuition and specifically the study of the stakes of intuition so what we were doing
was work that counted as work later but it was all fun was to invent problems where we knew the solution but intuitively we had another idea, and it was thathat that we did for just -- >> rose: give me an example of that. >> well, okay. an example of that, here it is. you have, you are trying to predict, assign probabilities to events and one of these events is, well, a flood somewhere in the united states killing at least 1,000 people over the next ten years. that is one event. the other event is an earthquake in california causing a flood in which more than 1,000 people will die and drown some time
within the next ten years. now, the second event obviously is less probable than the first, but when you take two groups and you have one group judge the first event and one the other, the earthquake events looks much more probable, so that's the kind of, where clearly -- >> rose: of course it couldn't be. >> i will give you another example. it is not our research but very similar. during the time that there was a lot of terrorism in europe, people asked about travel insurance, and they were asked how much would you be willing to pay for an insurance policy that pays $100,000 in case of death for any reason. and others were asked, how much would you be willing to pay for insurance policy that paid $100,000 in case of death in a terrorist incident? >> the second policy is worth
more than the first. now, this is absurd, i mean, obviously, you know, dying in a terrorist incident is an event that is included in the event of dying, but what? people are more afraid of dying in a terrorist incident than they are afraid of dying. so that is wherein tuition comes from, it comes from fear, and you have a judgment of probability that is distorted by something else, so those are the kind of problems. >> rose: you were discussing, is it fair to say he would have won the nobel with you, of course but they don't give nobel prizes to people who are deceased. >> of course. >> and his name would be on this book as well. >> it is still because we may not have agreed on this, but this is my book. but the ideas on which it is based and the history of the book are joint. >> rose: is there a connecting dot to all these ideas? is there a central mutable fact?
>> well, yes there is, and already two ways of thinking about the world and thinking about anything. there is what i call thinking fast, the intuitive way and thinking slow, the reasonably way. >> rose: system 1 and system 2. >> system 1 and system 2 and we didn't have those terms, but we had that idea that here are problems where we can figure out the solution, but our intuition, fast thinking as i would now call it goes the other way. so that really was a theme of our research, both on judgment, which we studied for many years and decision making, which -- to which we moved afterwards. >> rose: explain system 1 and system 2. >> well, there are two kind of thinking, first of all. really, everybody can recognize that, because one is what happens to you when i say two plus two. >> rose: right. >> and something comes to your mind when i say capital of
france, something comes to mind, this is associative memory working, it is working automatically, you don't have to decide it, it is something that happens to you. it is just like seeing that somebody's hair is dark. >> is that part of your unconscious mind? >> well you are not really conscious of how it is happening. you are conscious of the result. you are conscious of your impression beings uh you are not aware at all of the workings of associative memory so that is system 1. and system 2 has two functions. one of them is, you know, to compute things like 24 times 17. now nothing came to mind immediately. >> rose: no. >> you have to work at it laboriously if you going to do it at all and another function of system 2 is to supervise the mind and to supervise behavior. and that is work, that function, the function of control, the function of -- it is a system
2 characterizes system 2 is that its effortful and we invest effort and we have a sense of urgency when system 2 is involved. we have a sense of this is something that i do, it is not something that is happening to me. so -- >> rose: so is it important know when system one is appropriate and when system 2 is appropriate? >> oh, yeah. it is very important to know, because many mistakes of, you know, most of the time we run on system 1. >> rose: right. >> i mean, system 1 is the software most of the time we work. >> rose: when you see the light turn green we walk. >> yes. and it is not only that, even when we are exchanging pleasantries with a colleague at work and we are not working very hard. >> rose: right. >> so most of the time it is system 1. and most of the time system 1 works just fine, because we have a lot of practice which we do, we are very good at what we
do. occasionally, you hit a problem like, you know, the problem of buying insurance where actually it is a very complicated problem and your intuitions aren't right but you don't know it. so that -- >> rose: you don't know when intuition -- so it is a crucial reason you need to know when to use system 2, because -- >> you need to recognize, this is a situation. >> rose: which requires -- >> that i am prone to error. this is a situation -- >> rose: how do you discover that? >> it is very hard to do, and i am not terribly optimistic about people, you know, becoming very good at it. but there are certain principles that, you know, you can learn to recognize, for example, i know about myself that i am wildly over confident, you know, when i have opinions i am sure they are right, but i have had enough experience to know that i am over confident, so the feeling of overconfidence there, but if it matters i can slow myself
down and become more reasonable. so that is a case where system 1 would make you very confident, and system 2 slows you down. >> rose: how does it work, and you referenced this, how does it work in terms of people knowing what someone expects, so therefore they feed them that kind of information and therefore the people at the end of the recipients of the information make bad decisions? >> well,. >> the rock kay ward is exhibit 1 on this. >> yes. what is happening is -- and that happens a great deal, is that people are convinced -- and it is not that people go to war because of reasons, you know, it is really very often works the other way around. >> rose: we go to war -- >> we want to go to war and then they find the reasons. >> rose: ah. >> so if system 1 is very engaged and there is a strong intuition that war is needed that war is right and so on, then system 2 is -- becomes a
slave of system 1, and that happens a great deal. >> rose: you credit bush 43, president bush 43 as a clear example of system 1 person. >> well, i may have mentioned that, yes. >> rose: ha, ha. >> probably cited from somebody else who said that. >> clearly, you know. >> rose: guided by intuition, his gut is what got him and he said that, essentially. >> yes, he was proud of it, so he was a man who was saying, i trust my gut, and that is all i get, i got to where i am, and, so, yes, he was definitely -- >> rose: so he became over confident about his gut? >> i think most people who trust their gut are over confident about their gut in important matters but he clearly was. so -- >> and president obama used to say is cheerily a system 2 person. >> yes he may be the other extreme and that -- >> rose: he deliberates too much? >> that may be part of his
political difficulties, because the public has a stereotype of what makes a strong leader, and they like leaders who are decisive, they like leaders who operate quickly, and they don't like leaders who take their time. >> rose: and they are likely to seem -- >> they are likely to know exactly what they are going to do and we attribute magic to intuition, so when things work out as planned, then, you know -- >> rose: so the sub title of this book is intuition is way over-valued? >> well, i would prefer as a sub title, intuition, the marvels and the flaws. >> rose: ah. >> because the marvels, which i don't speak about much, because they are less interesting than the flaws, the marvels are, you know, how much we do with intuition and how good our intuitions are, you know, so i will give you some examples, you can drive without thinking about it, you know, that is the same
machinery that does intuition, i can tell you a sentence, one of my favorite experiments is people listen to sentences and british upper class male voice says and i am not going to try it. >> it is a great story. >> says i have lodged twos all down my back and he takes about a third of a second and the brain reacts with a surprise. >> rose: yes. >> that is extraordinary, you have to figure out -- >> rose: a man with a deep british voice would not have tattoos. >> that's right. >> rose: but you know the amount of world knowledge that has to be brought to bear on that problem within a third of a second for the brain to recognize that there is an incongruity, this is extraordinary. so and intuition is like that, so that a chess player who record recognize a chess situation very quickly, i recognize my wife's mood one word on the telephone. >> rose: you can -- so you say
what is wrong? are you okay? >> sure. and you can hear it. all it takes is a lot of practice. >> rose: take us to the realm of traders, people who we think have enormous instincts. >> you know, there is a debate about wherein tuition does and does not work in financial markets, so i am on pretty safe ground when i say that in the stock market in picking individual stocks -- >> rose:. >> it is stock. they are playing a game of luck, they feel they are playing a game of skill, but most of them are playing a game of luck. >> rose: so system 2 all you want it can't tell you what you need to know, it is just luck. >> no. and that is not anybody's fault, you know, it is the same thing with pundits trying to predict what is going to be the state of the united states or china in 15 years, pundits are no better at
it than readers of "the new york times". >> rose: why not? i mean doesn't history matter? >> no. because. >> rose: empirical data matter? >> well in some cases it does and in others it doesn't. >> rose: so how do you know the difference? >> yes, we do know it. we know that the stock market is chaotic, it is extremely complicated, and it is not -- it doesn't have enough regularity for people to learn. >> rose: so what about all of these people who have made billions and billions of dollars every year because they put these very smart mathematical models in silos and the silos tell them the way the market is going to operate and then they make -- >> those mathematical novels are, models are doing they are not picking individual stocks, they are picking up trends and some of these are microtrends and some of these are macro trends and, you know, they are able to able to predict what the market will do in the next five seconds, you can become very rich doing that. >> rose: right. >> and so a lot of these work on
programs that in effect, you know, it is no longer -- >> rose: let me give you two examples of people people made huge amounts of money one is george sorry ross betting on the british currency and paulissen betting on the sub prime. >> well, they are both very interesting examples i would never sell sorry ross -- he operates in his big bets are on an understanding of the world economy and of trends, and in an ability he claims to anticipate how people will react to these trends. >> rose: anticipate -- that is your business that he says he understands, how people will react. >> will react. that is -- >> rose: that is your business, not an economic model. >> he claims he can do it. and, you know -- >> paulissen paulson, at least in some of the trade we know about, i mean, he was shooting
fish in a barrel. >> rose: oh, yes. >> that is not -- some of the great successes are because people were already billionaires and had a lot of control. >> rose: and then he had a rough plodding for a while. >> yes. >> rose: and then came back and had a not so big year. >> yes, they have a lot more information. >> rose: so if you are so smart and you should win all the time and history proves that is not true. >> i don't think that winning a few times proves that you are smart, losing a few times doesn't prove that -- you have to look at the world, that is, you have to ask whether the world actually affords enough regularity so that it becomes learnable. >> rose: so your answer is? >> my answer is, in some cases, like chess or my wife's moods or, you know, many of the problems that people solve, the answer is yes, and in the stock market and in long-term forecasting and sometimes even in medium term forecasting, the
answer is -- >> rose: what is the interest in long-term forecasting and chess? >> well, in chess, there are regulate advertise regularities, so you can predict .. what is going to happen if you know where you are now you can predict what is going to happen next and that is how people develop intuitions. now, that is how people learn to read, so chess and reading have a lot in common, you recognize situations and make a snap diagnosis sees by medical experts, there are regularities and they pick them up, they learn though regularities when there are no regularities i would say forget it, it is not going to happen. >> rose: michael lewis wrote a profile of you. >> yes. >> for vanity fair. >> indeed. >> rose: what was the story? >> well, michael wrote money ball and he wrote money ball about billy beane, he was that man -- >> rose: in the movie. >> and a beautiful movie. >> rose: yes.
>> so he did that. now, that book was reviewed by a couple of friends of mine who were well-known behavioral economists i mean, richard say lohr, they reviewed michael's book for the new republican. >> rose: right. >> and they said, michael wrote -- a magnificent piece he doesn't seem to know the love of that is money to psychologists that actually if you apply mechanical or statistical system to prediction you will do better than what is called clinical prediction. so an algorithm would beat scouts if you give decent information to both. the algorithm will was the information better than the scouts will. and so that got -- >> rose: if that is true why hasn't -- i mean, why isn't it proven to be true since -- why haven't people adopted it and -- in other words, an algorithm
that was being used by billy beane's team at the oklahoma a's is being used by many people today. >> if you remember the end of the film,. >> rose: he didn't go to boston. >> he didn't go to boston, but boston adopted his system. >> rose: ah. >> and they won -- they won the pennant two years later. so the game has changed. >> rose: and we will read some things that are interesting. at the end of a basketball game why does it make sense for the last shot to go to the player with the best overall shooting percentage not player with the hot hand? because a lot of people say if you have a player with the hot hand you want him to take the last shot you say no, you want -- >> yeah. >> rose: you want who -- who do you want to shoot the last shots. >> i definitely want the player whwho is the most reliable playr should have the last shot, period. >> rose: hot hand does not matter? >> the hot hand, you know, to the best we know the hot hand doesn't exist so it is an illusion, people feel that there is a hot hand.
>> rose: when they can see the basket looks like it is as big as -- >> yeah. and, you know, they can feel it, and furthermore the player feels it and everybody feels it, but it is a shared illusion, and actually we know how this works, because if you have a grid, a ten by ten grid and then you sprinkle red color on the grid and you do that randomly, when you do it randomly, it is, it will not appear random, for a grid to appear random, it has to be? what symptomatic that, systemic and the hot hand is one of those phenomenons. >> here is another example. all of these are in the book. when people -- when shoppers for campbell soup see a sign saying 12 of person they buy an average of seven cans, twice as many as they bought when there was no sign. >> well, that is a phenomenon that we call anchoring. >> rose: anchor effect. >> yes. it is one of the biggest and
most row bust to them naah there are. you can -- any number that you think about, as a solution to a problem, you are going to be affected by it, and they had that study of german judges whos to add pair of dice. >> rose: oh, right. >> and then they had to judge how many months somebody -- a shoplifter would go to jail, and they were strongly influenced by the number the dice showed, that is an anchoring effect, and we understand it, and we know how it happens, and it is very powerful. >> rose: are behavioral economists on the rise? >> no question. i mean, behavioral economics now is a major input into policies. >> rose: right. >> rose: economic policies. >> economic policies. >> rose: foreign policy decisions. >> regulation, regulation is very formed by behavior economics, so gaston, the chief
regulator, he wrote a book with richard say lohr who is the guru of behavior economics, so -- >> rose: explain nudge. >> nudge is the idea that you can't help people make good decisions without forcing them to making any particular decision. for example, you know, the most dramatic example is organ donation. there are countries in europe where the default that you don't donate your organ, but when you get your driver's license, there is a box which says if you want to donate your organ, check the box. there are other countries that default is reversed, you donate your organs, but. >> rose: but you can choose not to. >> yes you have to opt out. now, the proportion of doe donations is about 94 percent if i recall in one group of countries and 18 percent in the other.
so the effect of default options is enormous, now people are completely free to choose, but, you know, one of these choices is much better than the other. >> rose: who comes to you and pays you lots of money to consult with them? what kind of people? >> well, not many people come to me personally to consult with me. you know, quite a few people are curious about it, but there is actually he fornous resistance, i think, within organizations to implementing programs that would improve the rash facility of their decisions rationale at this of their decisions .. >> why? >> well because it creates difficulties for the leadership. the moment you have a system that is more, you know, structured system, then that system can be used to second-guess the decisions of people, and people don't like to be secon second guessed.
so that there is a lot of interest in ways to improve rationality but i have been invited to many places and given many talks and been very well received. when it comes to implementation, and enthusiasm wanes distinctly. >> rose: because of some instinct for security? >> because -- >> or you don't want to be found out? you don't want to be found out. >> you are make. and this is a real problem. this is a real problem. so how to promote rationale at this, rationality within organizations and how to prevent mistakes that takes sort of architecture -- >> rose: that takes a mindset to say i am going to insist honorable at this? >> yes,. >> insist on, rationality .. >> and we will be naked and to defend your ideas. >> based honorable at this but i, on, rationality, so you will have to decide .. i will look for the proper mix of intuition
and system 2, it is a complicated process, very difficult and very few people have done it, you know, very systemically, some have, actually. >> se: some -- >> you know, there hedge fund. >> rose: right. >> who have a systematic process to optimize their decision make dismoog and the they have done better than others. >> and i think they do very well. >> rose: i think i know what you are talking about, yes, absolutely, and in fact, that was an example i was thinking about, when i brought it up. >> because they are not work ago perfect market. there are actually opportunities for them, and so there, a good process will, in general, make a good return. >> rose: are you -- what question do you not know the answer to that you most want to understand? >> well, you know, for the last few years i have been studying well-being. >> rose: well-being? >> yes. and the question that i would most like to understand and
there seems to be two facets to well-being. one is, what is your mood in real-time? and the other is, how satisfied are you with your life when you think about it? both are very important. both are very important. they are not the same. we know what causes one. we know what -- >> rose: i really want to understand it. so the first one is -- >> how happy you are in real-time. what what is your mood like. >> rose: exactly. >> are you interested? are you aware? are you vital, you know,. >> rose: right. >> do you feel energy? the other one is, when you think about your life, how staffed are you with your life? >> rose: yes. >> it turns out those two are very different. >> rose: and so what do you want to understand? >> what i would like to know is which of them has the bigger effect on health. so if you asked me, you know, one question i would like to know before i totally quit, that question is --
>> and what does your intuition tell you? >> i don't know, i don't trust my intuition. no. i mean, there are so many surprising results here that my intuition is not useful. >> rose: everything you have learned just told you not to there us intuition? >> well, yes. >> rose: what did you think malcolm blackwell wrote called bleak? >> malcolm gladwell actually did not -- does not believe that intuition is magic. he really doesn't believe it. it is very clear he has chapters where he shows, for example, he has a chapter on why president harding was elected just because he looked the part, intuition is not always a winner. but malcolm glad well definitely created the impression that intuition is magical and that, i think, that i regret, you know, i have enormous respect formal come gladwell, his piece is always the first one i read when it is in the new yorker. >> rose: right.
>> but here, my story has helped people in a belief they want to have, which is that intuition works magically, and that belief is false. >> rose: thinking fast and slow, daniel kahneman, i thank you and am honored to meet you. >> thank you very much alan rickman is here f he has an actor that tackled diehard and he appeared in the harry potter films, sheer look at some of his work. >> the following people are to be release from their captors, n northern ireland, the seven members of the new provost front, in canada the five impried leaders of quebec, nine members of the asian dawn. >> i heard about him in time
magazine. >> it is like standing behind a glass wall and everybody else was missing me. >> didn't hurt. i am very sensitive to pain. >> you! locklear? >> the king shall hear of this! >> join us. >> never! >> join us or die. >> i have described, mr. will bias the worst of libertines, but -- he did mean to propose that day and that is what i cannot deny that his intentions towards maryanne were honorable.
>> stand back. as i was saying,. >> don't tell me the name doesn't ring a bell. >> i will crop in the conversation you would like to have lots of sex and babies. >> you know that? >> yes. and so does karl. think about it for all our sakes. it is christmas. >> this is a false trail. >> your office no longer plays any part in the protection of harry potter. >> the very closest to him believe we have infiltrated the ministry. >> his latest project seminar brings him back to broadway for the first time in nearly ten years. he stars in a burnt out novelist
that savages the work of four younger writers. there is nothing quite like being in the presence of his cool ironic hauteur which is both dangerous and delightful. i am pleaded to have you back at this table. >> thank you, nice to be back here again. >> rose: thank you. >> and i am a bit under the weather with some kind of cold that is going around -- >> i can relate that clip you just saw of the deathly hallows i was so ill that day. >> rose: tell me about voice in acting. >> >> you talk often about your love of english and the command of the language but i also am fascinating by great voices and what they can do. >> rose: well, my voice teacher from dra. >> drama school would be it would be it is the biggest problem i had in training, that they were trying to, one teacher said you have a voice that sound as if it is coming out of the
back end of a drainpipe so there was a great deal of hard work going on. it is -- whatever one's voice is, it is a mixture of an accident of nature, because it is like what is the architecture of the inside of your mouth, i happen to have this very high roof so i suppose there is some kind of resonance chamber there, which is as much a curse as it is a blessing. because you have to work really hard to make a forward sound otherwise it gets trapped. >> where did you learn to act? >> >> well, whenever young arguments now say to me, what advice do you give me? i am thinking i am training, i want to be an actor or whatever i say forget about acting. and i really mean it. at that point in time, because whatever you do as an actor is cumulative, it is about -- so i
say, go to art galleries, listen to music, know what is happening on the news and the world, and form opinions, develop your taste in judgment so that when a quality piece of writing is put in front of you, your imagination which you have nurtured has something to bounce off of. >> rose: yes. and your uniqueness. >> and then you have to start learning about courage, i think,. >> rose: courage? >> yes. because you have to be cage courthouse with yourself on stage. i think emotionally, i was talking about in this morning because i walked one of those ted talks with taylor. >> rose: yes. he had been here. >> right. once she had a stroke and she is. >here on her -- holding up a brain, and showing the two halves of the brain and saying here is the analytical side and here is the imaginative side. and it made me think that actually one thing that actors
and dancers stingers and musicians do is to actually use both sides of their brain at the same time, because you have to hand yourself over completely to whatever the emotional demands of a part, but certainly -- well, in front of a film camera but certainly on stage, this kind of geiger counter, this laser or something that is at exactly the same time assessing what is happening out there, and what is happening there. >> rose: yes. >> to person you are talking to, and did this word land or no that one didn't land now i will have to pick up that word but at the same time, the bit of you that doesn't know it is lying, because it was as if you are divided from the neck up it is just a load of highs but the rest of you has no idea that it is lying, so that is the
punishing part of acting is faking the rest of your body into this strange place that it find hard to recover from. >> rose: and if it is not resonating with your geiger counter is not resonating you assume you are not doing something right, rather than something wrong with them? >> audiences form a oneness every time you go in front of them, whether it is quiet or raucous, this play we are doing, sometimes it is like being at a rock concert, and other nights, it is very quiet, it is a very funny place storks we have this nightly kind of series of boxes you can take backstage, they have got this, they didn't get that, and it is dangerous to judge an audience, because sometimes those quiet audiences are really listening and in the case of this play perhaps because of harry potter, there are a lot of young people out there, and quite a lot of them
afterwards are saying this is my first time at a broadway show, and so you have got to be tender. >> rose: harry potter was a gift to you then because it gave you a new audience. >> yes, well, ten or whatever anal they started reading and now they are like the three actors like all of the actors in them they are all grown up adults so it was a new audience of children, and i get letters from people saying i grew up with these films or these books, they were a part of my childhood. that is a pretty unique thing to have been a part of and i think we are all still processing what that means, what it meant, what it will mean. >> if you were asked to put one performance, whether a film or theatre, and say i am leaving, this is who i was, who would it be? >> that would be a dangerous thing to answer but i am pretty
sure that it might be one or two of the things that i had the worst reviews for. >> rose: are you serious? >> i think so. because there are things that you go, well i am going hang my hat o on that one and it means u went out on some sort of limb, not an indulgent way, hopefully you did the work and made the choices but, you know, ther thee have been a few of those where you think, well, i -- that isn't maybe what people are expecting and what we are probably talking about classics where people have preconceived ideas and if you pull the rug out a little bit, people get upset. >> rose: if you were always worried about making a mistake, you will never go over the top. right? >> and if you hand -- well, maybe it is a similar thing. you are able to ultimately hand yourself over to the material, you trust the material enough, you have got to be very picky about the work you do, i think. >> rose: you have been picky?
>> and reckless. yeah. but, you know, picky today might not come up with the same picks as five years ago or eight years ago. you know, you are constantly putting a finger up to a different wind, depending on who you are, at a certain time, and also have, it has to be said, what is offered to you. >> rose: you were once a dresser for somebody who was in a performance with ralph richardson. >> uh-huh. nigel hoffman. >> nigel offer and what did you learn watching him? >> well, beth of those great arguments, actors, ralph richardson i couldn't tell where the acting was, that was the thing. i didn't know where the words were coming from, you know, it was tough to spot the machinery, i see how he shaped that
sentenced or she, i can -- i can feel the thought process, i can see them placing a word within a tool, i didn't know where one word was coming from. that was lin-sanity if you like. >> rose: yes, yes. >> complete -- and he was crazy too. in a weird way. you know, you would just pass him on the stairs in the theatre and i was this lowly dresser, i was studying at roderick at the time, to just meet this great man and he would go hehoo and get on his motor and go home. >> when you were approached by this production, or did you grasp for it and say this is what i want to do or did you -- >> i said, no. i know greece beck well and love her writing and she really wanted feedback and so she sent this play about two years ago not particularly -- unless she
was being really crafty but as far as i know it was just what do you think about this play. >> rose: yes. >> >> rose: rather than trying to real you in? >> and as i recall, i didn't write back a kind of summation of anything, i just -- well i tell you what i am going to do. i went there 2 play with a blue pencil and just as an actor cut everything i thought was too much, you don't need three of those, cut that, cut that because she writes wonderfully but as she herself will probably say over writes, so i just went through it and says here is what i as an actor think about this, you don't need these things and sent it back to her, and she had a reading of that version, and time marches on and i was here a year ago up doing john gabriel and we had a reading of the play and still sayingly do a reading of it, i am still not doing the play, because i thought i was too old for it but we did the reading, and she put in a speech
at the end which is entirely related to the edited copy i sent, a speech at the end of the play where it talks about the only way to learn anything about writing is to have a decent editor go through it word by word for you, to show you what it is, what you meant, what you didn't even know you meant, and that speech she put in as a result of getting this copy back from me, and not that i did it beautifully, but -- >> rose: that's what it is about, refining and refining and refining, trying to find the purest piece, less is more, always. so when you set out to do it you made a commitment was there preparation for you or were you at the point where you can -- once you get the text you know where you are going to go? >> i mean -- >> unspeakable, the dialogue in a play, in a way you just have to get on the train of it and
ride. i thought -- i thought after reading -- she had written a fairly natural-lific modern play and i said with some bitterness at one point, i said gnl you have written a restoration comedy here, it is an english 18 century play, because these are people living in manhattan normal lives, talking what seems to be normal stuff to each other but actually when you start to work on it, incredibly intricate sentences, and a real love of language and very precise and specific language. so then the work really started, because you realize it is an acting exam as well. it is how the hell -- it is like bird store how do i get from the beginning of this sentence to the end of it and the only way i am going make sense is in one breath. >> rose: who is leonard? >> well it seems to be an
advocate for tough love all the way through, and he seems to be pretty brutal about it. you know, he has been hired by these four young writers, five thunder showers dollars a pop over a ten-week period and he goes in once a week and the gentle word would be he critiques the work. >> rose: tough love, and the least gentle would be brutal. >> h is a truth teller. that is the point. he tells the absolute, unvarnished truth. >> rose: and does he do that because he relishes it or because that is his moral code? >> well, as the play moves towards the end, and you learn more, he does put them all in the right place, he figures out who they are, one of them think thinks may be the real talent, is the one that he will not let go of. and he takes and pushes him and it becomes quite verbally violent between the two of them,
but -- because he knows there is something there. and then you get to see who he really is, at the end when you go to his home and he is in kind of a safer environment. >> rose: you get to know him in his own home? >> yes. and you see the absolutely necialt vulnerability, otherwise it wouldn't be very interesting to play. >> rose: some people say what you always have to do playing anybody who has a certain nastiness about them is find their vulnerability, find some -- >> well, you know -- you can't judge a character, you play, or otherwise you can't play it, so i didn't even recognize words like nasty. >> rose: yes. >> >> rose: you can't judge a character, otherwise you can't play it? >> well, you shouldn't judge a character, you should just say what does this person want? and how do they go about getting it if you start saying that is bad, that is evil, that is good, that is honorable, you don't, you
just -- you are looking at the people that you are speaking to, you have needs, wants and you pursue them, different characteristics pursue them in different ways, other people make the judgments. >> rose: does teaching interest you? >> well, i am very involved with the royal academy that i trained at, i don't really teach, but i go in and talk and answer questions, i really don't have anything to say until somebody asks me a question because you are still figuring it all out. >> rose: well does directing interest you. >> well i started to direct, the last thing i directed came to -- two years ago and it was a, it was called creditors which i loved working on, three actors, one set. that was brutal. >> rose: you were brutal or -- >> i wasn't brutal but i was certainly leonard like in asking for the truth.
relentlessly, and i think if you are working on a piece like strenburg not to just steam willful and give it a sense of real purpose and for it to be very funny. >> rose: i am very much interested in the pursuit of truth and how people go about that. >> i don't. i just live in awe of people who write from nothing. >> rose: because you love the english language so much. >> i do. but, you know, you either have that or haven't. what my job is to interpret and be a channel for a writer, so i will alter my instrument in whatever way i should, in terms of how my imagination meets it and you know when there is a connection, when images start to jump off the page that's when you start to say the word yes where i can't say no now because there are images and i just have to do that. so it is not often, not even conscious, but i think you can
-- you can tell when truth is happening in the theatre, when you feel real concentration between actors and it transmits to the audience and the audience becomes one animal and there are times in this play when the silence descends that is tangible and when a laugh happens, it is like one noise. and do you know what -- do you know what it was that got you there? >> sometimes it is purely technical and you can say if you rush this moment, you won't include them. they won't understand. if that word isn't clearly placed it won't have any impact on that word. >> rose: yes. >> but then you know these details and then sheer timing things. you know, there are a few moments, one in this production which is all about me
coming in and saying a line and then a slam at the door. it is because people are following a story, the door slam makes them laugh. >> rose: and what is happening to them? not the audience but these four students? >> i hope in the story they are figuring out who they are, and they all want to be writers and by the end of the play, they say he has helped them to be placed in some form of writing world, not all of them as novelists but figuring out what they are going to do with this talent or this desire they have to be writers. >> rose: does brilliance comes from facing fear or does brilliance come from something else? >> i think that, you know, any actor would sit here and give you different answers. i know that there are actors who i know and who i respect highly who can't wait to get out there every night.
>> rose: yes. >> they are like, pawing the ground. >> rose: they are like quarterbacks. >> yeah. and there are other actors that -- which would be the camp i am in. >> rose: i know. >> which is going, how quickly can i get back to the dressing room? >> rose: really? >> in a sense. i mean, it is -- people say are you enjoying doing the play? i don't have the sense of enjoyment -- >> rose: well, what do you have a sense of? >> trying to meet the challenge of it and trying to look into the eyes of your fellow actors and know that something rare is happening. but i am only fed by the play and feeling that the play, a sense of the play, the actors and the audience are all in the same space at the same time. >> rose: i read something which you sort of looked at acting as you didn't take it all that seriously in terms of what
is happening. >> she said the thing is to take the work seriously but to take yourself not seriously. >> rose: exactly. >> at all. >> rose: right, right. exactly right. on, you know, everybody that i know who is really good at something, somewhere takes it really seriously they don't necessarily have to reflect that, but there is a very seriousness of focus and intent and discipline and even repetition. >> yeah, well, i have had some very good teachers and they make you aware of the cliff face that you are standing on and made this choice you are going to do it. now take the risks. peter burke, when i was first at stratford he was directing anthony and cle patra and came on to see it during the run and we would meet in name the rehearsal room and how is it going, well this is working and this is not working this is
better than that, and still working on this. >> it amazes me when i see, especially when you are dealing with a great text like this one, he said, the thing is, you will never be as good as the play. and i thought, well, that is sort of relaxing in a way, you know. >> rose: you will never be as good as the play. >> never as good as this play. >> rose: you also told jude law was on this program and talking about hamlet he said that you said, look you have to understand that, you know, you can't watch it for a while after you have done it because there is an ownership. >> with that play. >> rose: with hamlet. what were you saying? >> because i think it is such a personal journey that play, that character, that any production will take its identity from the person playing it, and also however you look at it, it is
about somebody who has an acute -- an acute relationship with an audience and with a group of actors. >> rose: yes. >> somebody who looks in a group of actors and says speak the speech, i pray as i pronounced it to you, and -- on the one hand, and then on the other hand, comes rushing on, walking slowly or whatever, and delivers all of those soliloquies to an audience, you know, these are just facts about the play. his big relationship is with the audience and with actors, everything else is a nightmare. in trying to figure out how he fits in, where he doesn't fit in. so those are just facts. then it is about your sensibility as that hamlet, how you -- how you make it live for you, and what your politics are,
what your imagination is, what your emotional range is. so -- and i still -- i am sure if you were here now you would ask him again, can you go and watch hamlet? it is a very difficult play because you think mine. wrong. >> rose: many people say mine. let me get crucial data here which is you are going to be in this until april 1st. >> i am and then jeff goldblum takes over. >> and i thank you for coming, a pleasure. >> thank you. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org